The theaters of New Haven were alive with Spanish cinema this week.

The second annual New England Festival of Ibero American Cinema kicked off in three venues surrounding Yale’s campus Friday and ends today. The festival featured over 50 independent films from Spain, Portugal and several Latin American countries at screenings and discussions at universities around New England. The film series, hosted in the Elm City at Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Criterion Cinemas and the Whitney Humanities Center, aims to promote an exchange of cultures as well as support emerging foreign filmmakers, according to New Haven program coordinator and Yale Spanish professor Margherita Tortora.

“It’s about seeing films from all over Latin America in order to expose yourself to these places of the world,” Annia Bú Maure, a Cuban actress featured in “Larga distancia,” told the News in Spanish. “This is the means by which we grow interest and understanding.”

The NEFIAC began last year at Brown and has now spread to Yale, Dartmouth and Roger Williams Universities. This year the festival includes 59 independent Spanish-language films from 13 countries, many of which premiered in America for the first time. During this year’s festival, Yale staff members worked as volunteers or as sponsors. The Yale Film Studies Center hosted a reception on Sunday, and La Casa Cultural will be hosting the Yale Closing Party today.

Several residential colleges provided guest rooms to house the filmmakers.

The festival sponsors newer filmmakers who are often showing their first or second movies, Tortora said, adding that part of the program includes a feature film competition exclusively for emerging directors. The NEFIAC provides an opportunity for foreign filmmakers to show their films to American audiences, said Jose Torrealba, who heads the festival series as part of his duties as outreach coordinator at the Center for Latin American Studies at Brown University.

“The festival is for anyone who loves film and loves the opportunity to see non-commercial films,” Tortora said. “These are not films you would usually see in the Cineplex. They are made for love, not for money, and are made by filmmakers as their art.”

Although the cost of travel often precludes foreign filmmakers from participating in American film festivals, the NEFIAC funds flights and arranges discounted rooming for many of its guests, Tortora said. The proximity of universities in the area allows them to screen movies at multiple places on one trip.

Maure said she believes it is important to have festivals organized at universities where Latin American Studies are conducted. She added that she hopes students will “see the reality of the places they are studying through films.”

Among the filmmakers showcased in the festival is a Yale graduate. Greg Serabouh ’06, who said Tortora inspired him early in his career, premiered his short film “Encuentro” on Sunday.

“Personally, it’s an opportunity for me to show the film in a context that I know,” Serabouh said. “And it’s a great opportunity for me as a director to connect with the audience and see what they thought of the movie.”

Throughout the weekend, filmmakers could hear audience feedback through Q&A sessions following each screening.

Festival participation is not limited to Yale students, according to Tortora, who said the NEFIAC tries to spread to surrounding communities. The audience is a “beautiful mix,” she added, between Yale students and New Haven residents, with strong attendance from the immigrant community. All films are shown with English subtitles to accommodate non-Spanish speakers.

“As a filmmaker, the more I listen, the more I gain,” said Sonia Fritz, a Puerto Rican filmmaker. “Audience feedback broadens the scope of a film.”

The program also features art shows at Ezra Stiles College and Arte Inc. in Fair Haven. Yale will host NEFIAC’s main exhibition, “Con la Memoria” by Cuban artist Reynier Ferrer, at the end of October.

Although the festival ends today, additional film screenings will continue throughout October.